On the Bookshelf...

Ghost Signs

Stu Hennigan

Stu Hennigan delivered emergency medicine and food parcels during the the first 6 months of Covid 19 in inner city Leeds. GHOST SIGNS highlights the issue of 21st century poverty and how a decade of Austerity has devastated our most vulnerable communities.

Ghost Signs is one hell of a book. A few years ago you'd have never dreamt that the experiences that Stu Hennigan experienced would be real and not a dystopian future. Yet this is the reality of the UK in the 21st Century. A country so split by wealth or lack of it that people are living in abject poverty. Set against the backdrop of the covid pandemic, it exposes the underbelly of life in northern England. It's a harrowing account of how far poverty has reached.

Stu Hennigan a librarian, volunteered to deliver food and medicine supplies to people who were told to self-isolate. I can't imagine what he saw and found was what he really expected. Yet him, and thousands like him up and down the country, they helped people who for no fault of their own were desperately in need of help. I'm unsure of the mental toll it took out on him, yet he carried on stopping children starving. Whilst they partied in London, or went for an eye test in Barnard Castle, Stu went out on his rounds.

As a book it's a great memoir of the covid pandemic. It exposes just how near the breadline people in Britain have become. There were many times I had to put the book down and do something else, so graphic were the descriptions. I would have broken in the early days. People who needed help and were being failed by this government. it showed how ten years of austerity had left those most in need struggling to put food on the table. Stu and Leeds council did a marvellous job trying to patch up the cracks. At first it was just for those who had to self isolate, yet it became more than that. It was a push to help all those that society had left behind.

Reading the pages showed that it wasn't the pandemic that had brought poverty and deprivation. It was the cutting of vital mental health services, and NHS struggling to cope with fewer staff. It showed that Great Britain wasn't great anymore. The story about the young girl and her mother who were so grateful for help they even remembered his name. It showed the gratitude of countless families who found it difficult to put food on the table. Like I say I can't imagine the toll it has taken on Stu and those like him.

This is not just a book about the pandemic, it's a story of how far this country has fallen that children go to school starving, parents skip meals to feed them. This country is probably going to have more austerity to pay for the pandemic. How people are going to live I don't know. Food bank use is rising faster than the NHS waiting lists. More families are starving, and the government doesn't do a thing to help.

This book should be required reading for MP's who spout that you can make a meal for 30p or tell those starving it's their fault. The real story of Britain in the 2020's.

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March 24, 2023

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